“In communities GBM’s [Government Business Managers] houses get put up in a matter of days, but we’re still waiting for houses and schools”: PAPA (Prescribed Area People’s Alliance) statement June 2009.
The NT Intervention imposed compulsory 5-year leases on all prescribed Aboriginal lands. Liberal Minister Mal Brough argued that this would allow the immediate construction of much needed housing. But two years later the government is under increasing pressure—not one house has been built for Aboriginal people.
Communities are being held to ransom—told that no funding will be released for housing until they sign 40-90 year leases with government. Tangentyere Council, which represent Alice Springs town camp residents, has said they will not sign any lease which hands the government total control over land and housing.
Desperate to prove she is “taking action”, Minister Jenny Macklin is threatening to use Intervention powers and compulsorily acquire the town camps.
This is a drastic move that threatens all Aboriginal organisations across the country. Tangentyere provides accommodation and vital services for the thousands of Aboriginal people in Alice Springs and surrounding areas neglected by racist governments. Breaking Tangentyere would severely compound social problems.
Housing would be transferred to the mainstream NT public housing agency. But many town camp residents have already been through eviction because of the discriminatory tenancy policies of Territory Housing. If they get evicted from town camps there will be nowhere to go. Territory Housing is responsible for allowing raw sewage to fester on the floor of houses it took over at Ampilatwatja (see back page).
This move is only possible due the ongoing suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act. Leaked documents from Jenny Macklin’s department confirm that the Minister knows this, but will press ahead despite her stated commitment to the RDA.
In Sydney, a public lobby will be held at the ALP national conference on July 30, pushing for end to an intervention and the threats of acquisition. Rallies will also take place in Alice Springs and Melbourne. The campaign nationally is poised to ramp up mobilisation if Macklin moves against the camps.
By Jean Parker

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